GME 101: Why Student Recruiter Titles Are So Weird

RJ Nichol
Jan 7, 2021

Despite the odd naming conventions, the role of the student recruiter is integral to the Graduate Management Education (GME) community

Stephen Taylor is the Research Director for BusinessCAS. In this blog series, he examines what makes GME programs tick and demystifies some of the more puzzling aspects of the field. See his insights into the value of recruitment and evolving GME best practices

Executive Dean for Innovation and Planning. Associate Dean of People. Director of Disruption. Senior Associate Assistant to the Senior Assistant Dean. Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest are real, I promise. GME administration may be the poster child for overwrought hierarchies and unnecessarily complex titles for its highly specialized administrative staff. In many US schools, the job titles in the business school have taken on a life of their own where central HR divisions allow the business school to use any title they like — called a “working title” in the HR system — so long as the position can be mapped to one of the central HR-approved roles.

No part of the GME administration has more job title confusion than student recruitment. There are Directors of Recruitment, Directors of Recruitment Operations, Assistant Directors of Admission, Senior Assistant Directors of Admission — and comparing them across GME, all of these titles may represent the same position. So why are the titles in recruitment so complex? First, let’s take a look at some of the standard roles in a student recruitment shop.

Who’s Who in Student Recruitment

Generally speaking, student recruitment organizations may have two types of roles as their “front line” staff, those who answer the phone to qualify and transfer to someone who will manage the relationship with the prospect, and those who manage the relationship with the prospect. Those who perform the first function, doing “Q&T” (qualify and transfer work), often have titles with “operations” in them to reflect that they do some of the heavy lifting. These roles will also work to organize materials for recruitment fairs, attend recruitment fairs, email responses to inquiries to general email addresses and manage incoming and outgoing mail.

The members of the team who work with individual prospects to steward them from interest through application and enrollment are generally called “recruiters.” From the perspective of job titles, the student recruiter is interesting for a few reasons. The vast majority of recruiters in GME have titles that begin at Assistant Director and may go through Director or Senior Director. A student recruiter rarely has any staff oversight responsibility, and they rarely fit the minimum requirements for the central HR-approved Assistant Director titles. In what is perhaps an apocryphal tale — but is reasonably explanatory — the shift to working titles beginning at Assistant Director was driven by GME’s increasing emphasis on recruiting international students. The expanded title was intended, we are told, to reassure the international prospect that they’re working with someone of sufficient organizational importance to justify the prospect’s interest.

There are other oft-cited reasons undergirding the expansion of titles in recruitment, though none rest on firm foundations. For instance, well-regarded schools that were hiring their own graduates likely created the Assistant Director title to communicate greater institutional prestige. More cynically, perhaps schools give recruiters expanded titles because the work is hard and the pay is low. Whatever the origins of this trend toward using working titles in recruitment, it is undeniably the industry standard. So the next time you’re justifying a request to hire additional staff, you can reassure your central HR group that at least you’re not asking for a new Senior Executive Associate Dean for Co-Curricular Planning and Student Evaluation Services and Support…

Interested in learning more of Stephen’s insights into GME recruitment? Check out his recent post on the value recruiters bring to their GME programs!

RJ Nichol

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.